Saturday, January 23, 2016

What New Hell Is This?



Have you ever tasted corn whiskey? Most whiskey drinkers have not. It is a peculiarly American product. The unaged version is considered whiskey nowhere else. It has been around forever but never has been very popular.

Heaven Hill is the only major distillery that makes and sells corn whiskey. Georgia Moon is their main unaged corn, Mellow Corn is their aged product. Other distilleries make corn whiskey for use in other products, such as blended whiskey, but they don't sell it as such. This corn, like the 'Indiana bourbon,' was undoubtedly made at MGP in Lawrenceburg.

Many micro-distilleries that sell so-called 'legal moonshine' actually sell corn whiskey. Ole Smoky's unflavored 'moonshine' is corn whiskey. Their flavored moonshines are vodka.

Corn whiskey is made from a mash that is at least 80 percent corn. The rest can be any other grain, or it can be all corn. It is the only unaged product that can be labeled as 'whiskey,' but only in the United States. It must come off the still at 80% ABV or less. If aged, it must go into the barrel at 62.5% ABV or less.

If aged, corn whiskey must be aged either in new uncharred oak barrels, or used barrels. Since bourbon and rye must be aged in new charred barrels, every distillery has lots of used barrels, so that's how corn whiskey is almost always aged, when it is.

Unaged corn whiskey tastes like bourbon new make, which it essentially is. Aged corn tastes a little bit like tequila. Either way it is hot and harsh and very vegetal. Like anything else, some is better than others.

Why the primer on corn whiskey? Because the rumored next release in Diageo's Orphan Barrel program contains corn whiskey, probably a lot of it.

At this point, all we know is what you can read on the back label above. It says the product is a mixture of 39 percent 17-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (KSBW) and "61 percent 4-year-old corn whiskey and Indiana bourbon." How disingenuous to tell us exactly how much 17-year-old bourbon it contains, but fudge on the exact mix of corn whiskey and Indiana bourbon. One assumes it's a lot of corn.

One report said the MSRP will be $55.

All of this comes from random posts on the internet, nothing is official although presumably the labels are authentic. Other than what is on the back label, there are no tasting notes. Maybe it's wonderful. The problem is, everything else in the Orphan Barrel line so far has been KSBW at an advanced age. This product leads with its 17-year-old KSBW component and hopes you won't notice the indeterminate but surely very large corn whiskey component. 

This sneaky maneuver is par for the Orphan Barrel course, as recounted here and here. The market has gotten crazy, so maybe people will pay $55 dollars for a Frankenstein's monster whiskey like this. Stay tuned.

26 comments:

ArmadilloPepper.com said...

I'm certainly not a bourbon/whiskey expert, but being from Kentucky I do sip a bit occasionally. So far, I have not had a corn whiskey that I liked.

Erik Fish said...

Speaking of Diageo, Dickel's White Corn Whiskey is by far the best-tasting white stuff I've tried, actually the only one of which I've ever bought a second bottle. According to all accounts, that's just GD new make, since Dickel is cooking a corn-high mashbill (84-8-8, I think), which qualifies it anyway.
I like the Dickel stuff as an occasional beverage; it's actually so smooth that you easily forget you're putting away 90-proof liquor. But as a major component in the fancy-schmantzy Orphan Barrel Project, corn whiskey seems ridiculous. In fact, the whole idea of blending turns the orphan barrel thing into an absurdity. Maybe Diageo's marketing guys have too easy access to complimentary bottles of Dickel at the office :)

Chuck Cowdery said...

Is the Dickel White Corn in general distribution or just a distillery gift shop item?

FrankDell said...

The Dickel is in general distribution.

Richnimrod said...

OOOOOOOOOOOOOH! I can hardly wait for my case of this new Orphan Barrel addition to arrive at my retailer! I may get two cases of this to start, and build from there. The other OB's were all sooooo good and so reasonably priced; this one will be the best yet, I'm sure. Holding my breath.......

Erik Fish said...

At least here in the Pacific NW it's generally distributed; not all, but the larger liquor stores have it.

Tristan said...

This release def is a mystery but strangely I'm looking forward to this more than some of Orphan Barrel's previous releases. Out here in CA I've seen Dickel White at a few shops but it is rare and usually the guy behind the counter with broken English doesn't even know what it is. A few hipster savy joints here in SF though sell it and id assume a few real cocktail forward bars use it in a few cocktails to be "ahead of the curve". Anyhow, I know it def isn't a gift shop item but it def is, presumably, rare outside of the Bible Belt.

Jacob Schmidt said...

Hey Chuck -

I got to try a deathly sample of the unreleased “Gifted Horse” on Thursday with my Diageo “Master of Whiskey”/Brand Ambassador for Colorado... It was (and I very much hate to admit this) actually quite good! HOWEVER - The thing that you didn’t mention in the post, that I found the most interesting (and not necessarily in a good way) was that they are choosing to release this at 115 proof. I don’t have to tell you that this is a substantial jump from the previous six releases... I just wonder if this is to let as much of the 17 year old juice in there shine through as it possibly can? Either way, I found it to be decent and an interesting whiskey for both what it is AND what it is not...kinda like Old Blowhard - Which wasn’t good, but was a good ‘case study’ in what 26 years of age does to a bourbon. When you have drank as many as you or I have, its neat to see all angles of what bourbon can (and cannot) be...

MadMex said...

Hell -- I wouldn't be surprised if the first paragraph on the back label is a bunch of baloney too. Mistake, huh? Yeah, right. Sound familiar? See Wild Turkey Forgiven. Clever marketing at work? Maybe.

Cynic

Anonymous said...

The Balcones True Blue Corn whiskey is a nice product - never gotten vegetal from it myself

Tadas A. said...

Dickel White Corn is in general distribution. I have seen it in MI, IL, CA, NY.

Rob Miller said...

I have purchased the Dickel White Corn in Indianapolis. I agree with Erik that it is smooth and pretty tasty. As a matter of fact, I'd go buy a bottle right now if it weren't for Indiana's stupid prohibition on Sunday sales.

potsy said...

I've the Dickel white corn in liquor stores in California. I bought a bottle once to compare flavor against some homemade juice.

John Gould said...

According to Binny's Beverage Depot's website, it has "limited availability" at some of their stores. I don't know if the qualifies as general distribution, but it at least implies it's not a gift shop only item. I know you're from the Chicago area so that is why I checked Binney's. I didn't check other stores, but at least it's likely/plausible that it's available elsewhere as well.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Is Dickel making it in Tennessee or buying it from MGP?

Anonymous said...

"Tequila-ish." That's exactly what I get from several of the slightly aged "craft whiskeys" that I've tried, especially Troy & Sons Oak Reserve which takes their 100% corn unaged "moonshine" and barrels it for 6 months. In fact, they even have a margarita recipe on their website using the Reserve.

Anonymous said...

I've been tempted to purchase several times, but have never pulled the trigger. According to the label it is "Distilled and Charcoal Mellowed at George A Dickel and Co. Tullahoma, Tennessee"

Erik Fish said...

The bottle says "Distilled and charcoal- mellowed at Tullahoma". Since the Rye says clearly Lawrenceburg, I assume they are disclosing correctly when appropriate, and this is indeed their own.

akendeall said...

I keep a bottle of Mellow Corn on my bar. I had to ask a distributor to pick it up for me, but was quite impressed. I'd even go so far as to say it's not a bad sipper.

It really shines if you're into 'vatting' your own whiskey. Those Scots were onto something when they realized you could really make well-aged barrel-juice last by bending it with quality grain/corn whisky.

Maybe that's the key to salvaging a bottle of Blow Hard, eh Jacob? Must admit I've never tried any of the Orphans, though.

Michael Shoshani said...

Just to elaborate on what akendeall said, by law the grain component in blended Scotch must be aged in barrels for either two or three years, I forget. Naturally, these would be reused barrels because blenders won't want the grain to overpower the malt. But Mellow Corn is also aged in used copperage, and for four years since it's a BIB.

I'm intrigued enough by this analogy to pick up a bottle for experimentation. Could be that Mellow Corn can knit a blend of other bourbons together, when used proportionally.

Back to Gifted Horse, that label looks like something from the late 1940s in a full page magazine ad, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

What MadMex said. Diageo hopes we won't look this Gifted Horse in the mouth :-O

Anonymous said...

I actually quite like Mellow Corn. The deal with it though is that its batches vary wildly. It was startling to me when I compared two unopened bottles from my cellar and one looked like Talisker 10 year old scotch and the other looked like Maker's Mark. The darker expressions really shine. The tequila taste fades and it picks up a noticeable raisin quality and some sweet cornbread. Balcones' corn whiskeys are also well worth the tipple.

Rohan said...

Seems like a lot of barrels to misread before you realized that you had grabbed the wrong batch. I guess the intern was drinking on the job.

Anonymous said...

So can this contain 2.5% coloring/flavoring/blending materials by volume?

Chuck Cowdery said...

Probably.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, see if you can find a bottle of Finger Lakes Distillings Glen Thunder corn whiskey if you haven't tried it already. It is unaged but not harsh and easily could be a daily drink for me.